Jaded's Pub

In my last post I talked about my dreams of VR and worries that if I waited too long to invest, I’d be too old to really enjoy the technology.

Mind you, I own Playstation VR so I had an inkling of what I was missing out on. PSVR is a solid enough system for what it costs but it has some technical limitations, and it’s not super convenient for me. (If you have a dedicated gaming room or live alone you won’t have the same issues.)

So I was thinking about this waiting game I’ve been playing when I set up the PSVR to sample No Man’s Sky in VR. I was a fan of No Man’s Sky when everyone was losing their shit over ‘broken promises’ and so forth, and I’m still a fan today. I was excited about the VR mode.

I wasn’t disappointed by the VR patch, but it does really stress PSVR. It’s like there’s a fog on your space helmet’s visor and anything more than 10 yards or so away appears as a blurry blob of pixels. The PS4 just isn’t powerful enough to support the game the way it should be supported. Still, it was enough to show me how well NMS works in VR.

That’s when I pulled the trigger. Is it crazy to spend $400 to play one game? I guess it depends on how much you love the game. Plus I knew it wouldn’t be the ONLY VR game I played.

So I ordered the Oculus Rift S in spite of reading a lot of posts about issues with MSI laptops (which I have). My superstitious side doesn’t even want to write these words, but so far I’ve had no significant problems.

There is a huge jump in quality going from PSVR to the Rift S (as you’d expect, given the price and age of the two systems). The inside-out tracking (instead of external cameras/sensors pointing at the visor, the visor has cameras looking out at the environment) is about 1000 times easier to deal with than the PSVR’s fussy camera.

So far I’ve found VR using this system very comfortable. I can wear the visor for long periods of time without any hint of simulation sickness, though physically I don’t find the Rift S as comfortable as PSVR (I’m still playing around with the proper way to wear it, though).

I still struggle to clear enough room to be really comfortable with “room sized” VR (Rift needs a 3′ by 3′ clear area and we need a larger apartment) but I played No Man’s Sky sitting in a swivel chair for quite some time and it was amazing. Hello Games has done a great job.

It’s early days yet (I got the system on Friday) but so far no regrets. I know the technology will get better and the Rift S will be obsolete soon enough, but I’ll worry about that when the time comes. For now I’m really happy I took the plunge. I’m not getting any younger, y’know.

My first VR experience was Dactyl Nightmare, somewhere around 1991. I went into an arcade and a technician was just setting the machine up. Since he was still tweaking things he let me play around in it for longer than my $5 or $10 was supposed to get me. I was astounded. I was swept away. It was like the best acid trip ever. I wanted more.

Over the years I’ve dabbled. At one point I cobbled together a home VR system using a Mattel Power Glove and Sega 3D glasses from… the Saturn maybe? I played handball in my bedroom. It was pretty neat but also pretty damned low-res/laggy. I think I was running this on a 386sx PC, if that dates it for you. Y’know that might have even been before Dactyl Nightmare.

Since those days I’ve mostly been waiting for VR to arrive. Last year I took the plunge and got a Playstation VR system and that has been pretty fun, but let’s face it, it’s a bit limited in terms of resolution, given the power of the PS4 driving it. Plus it’s a bit of a chore to set up since the PS4 is in the living room. There are cables that get in the way, and the camera needs to be just so which means perching it on a stool in the middle of the room. I enjoy it and don’t regret the purchase but honestly I don’t use it as much as I would like just because there is so much ‘prep’ that has to happen before I turn it on, and because of how intrusive it is (for Angela and the doggo) to have cables strung across the room.

Lately I’ve been looking to upgrade. Right now there seem to be three ‘active’ options: Oculus Rift, the HP Vive and Valve’s Index. Both the Vive and Index require setting up sensors around the room; this makes them less than ideal for our current living space. That leaves the Rift S or the wireless Rift Quest. The former would connect to my PC tucked away in a corner of the kitchen, out of everyone’s way. The latter is wireless and seems to be pretty much “pick up and play.”

Problem is, both these systems still have limitations and flaws. I keep thinking “I should wait for the next iteration.” The tech will improve and/or get cheaper, support will become more prevalent. If anyone were to ask me, I’d say keep on waiting for VR to ‘arrive.’

Problem for me is, I’m old. I recently had my eyes checked and the doc wants to bump up my prescription (which happens every year). Recently had my ears checked and confirmed that my hearing is going. It’s age-related so there’s nothing to be done to fix it. My body seems to get stiffer every day. My hands hurt if I manipulate things for too long. Getting old sucks, make no mistake.

So I’m wondering how much time I realistically have to enjoy VR since it is kind of an ‘activity.’ Can I afford to wait another 5 or 10 years for the next jump in VR technology? How much blinder and deafer will I be by then? How much worse will my arthritis be? Plus I don’t want to end up on a “funny” YouTube video titled “Elders Try VR.” I mean, I’m already as old as a lot of those “elders” are. /fistshake

I’ve been having these internal discussions with myself more and more as the fact that life is most definitely finite gets in my face again and again. Yeah its depressing but hey, this is my life. If I have things I want to experience, it’s time to set about experiencing them. But…what if VR tech leaps ahead two years from now? I won’t be much worse in two years than I am now. I can wait for that, right?

Hmmm. If anyone finds the fountain of youth, give me a call. OK?

I’m trying to get in good with the old woman who runs this camp I’ve been hanging around. She has a job for me: a drifter had come into the camp to do some business, then had gotten drunk and beaten a few of her people to death. She wants revenge, and she wants me to get it.

This guy sounds like bad news so I say I’ll do it. I leave just after dawn but the world is nothing if not full of distractions and it’s afternoon by the time I get near the drifter’s camp. Turns out he’s got a gang of his own, and a well fenced compound with a 2 story tower. I’ll have to be careful.

And I think I am being careful until the sniper’s laser sight sweeps past me; I hadn’t even seen the sniper in the second, smaller tower. I duck behind some rocks but between a guard patrolling and the sniper sweeping back and forth I know it won’t be long before I’m found. So I peer out, take a deep breath to enhance my focus, and squeeze the trigger.

The sniper drops from a clean head shot but of course the gunfire alerts the entire camp. I should’ve spent the credits for a suppressor. The patrolling guard comes running over and I leap out from cover, my machete blade flashing in the late afternoon sunshine. One less guard.

I spot my mark; he’s in the second tower checking the sniper. I take a shot, miss, and he flees, heading for the bigger tower. I guess he thinks he is safe up there because he stops. Another head shot and he is down, but I need a trophy for the old lady. Dude carries a crowbar and she wants it, but there’s an angry gang between me and it.

I fall back, skirt around the camp and sneak in through a gap in the wall. I drop down off a ledge; risky because I can’t climb back up. There’s some tall grass to take cover in and…SNAP! Bastards have left a leg trap in the grass and now I’m trapped in it. It doesn’t hurt too much but I’m a sitting duck. Rather than panic I get ready for the enemy and I take out a couple as they come rushing around a rock face. Now I have time to get free.

Low and slow, I make my way across the compound taking out the rest of the gang. Or at least that’s what I thought. Climb the tower and, oh hell, there’s a couple more up here and they’re making a last stand. I duck behind a wall, so do they. We exchange shots and soon they’re dead and I’m bandaging my wounds and checking my ammo supply, which is starting to be a concern.

Stupid me, rather than grab that crowbar and get out, I start looting the place. I’m still up in the tower when a few bikes roll up; reinforcements and me trapped at the top of the tower. They know I’m up there somewhere and are yelling for me to come out. One gets brave, comes up to my level and pays for his boldness with his life.

During my looting I’d found some pipe-bombs; too many for me to carry them all. So I get cute. I light a fuse, chuck it down by their bikes. I miss, but one of the idiots runs over to see what he’d heard, and gets there just in time for the bomb to go off. Another down.

Then I hear it, and so do they: the screeching and shrieking. A horde comes flowing into the far end of the camp; I guess the pipe bomb was a bad idea. I hadn’t even noticed that it had gotten dark. The gang members are screaming and shooting but there’s no hope for them. Soon the shouting stops. I’m cowering at the top of this tower, only one way down. Afraid to breathe. I hear the freakers howling and scrabbling and I’m praying they haven’t noticed me. Apparently they haven’t. They move through the camp and funnel out the entrance and towards my bike. Aw hell.

My luck holds, though, as they leave the road before they reach the bike, and wander down a hill. I wait until I can no longer see them, then creep down the stairs and back to the bike. I don’t want to risk drawing the horde back so I just roll down the road a bit before firing up the engine and getting the hell out of there.

The old woman is sweet as pie to me now; last week I was just a pain in her ass, now I’m her most reliable guy. Really all I want is a safe place to sleep at this point; that, at least, I get.

Gameplay Notes

It’s hard to say how much of this was “emergent” gameplay and what was scripted. I’m fairly certain the bikers coming back were triggered when I picked up the crowbar. The horde though: I don’t see how that was scripted though it might have triggered when I’d killed X defenders? It really seemed like the pipe bomb drew them in; I’m going with that. There were a LOT of them and it was creepy as hell, even for me the player. You can only save your game at your bike so if the horde had got me I would’ve had to re-start the entire fight. I really was holding my breath.

And I tell you, watching those things shamble off into the darkness… sheesh it gives me the shivers just thinking about it!

The trip back was a story in itself as freakers [aka zombies; the fast moving variety] were everywhere and at one point one leapt at me and knocked me off my bike. I had to fight half a dozen of them using the machete (didn’t want guns to draw in even more) which of course broke on me. I had to stab the last two with my boot knife; a method I wouldn’t recommend. Took forever.

Really enjoying this game. Sorry for lake of screenshots; they’re just so cumbersome to deal with on the PS4 and the colors are always mucked up because I play with HDR on.

The last time I wrote a proper post here was June 10th and at that point I’d been playing FFXIV for about 10 days. And until about a week or two ago, I’d been playing it every day, pretty much exclusively.

Then I skipped a day for some reason. And another day. Then I logged in for about 10 minutes and that was that. I may be done with FFXIV for now.

This always happens to me; it’s my cycle of Discovery, Ridiculous Enthusiasm (accompanied with “gonna play this 4-ever!” giddiness), The Routine and finally, the big DROP happens. I think I need to learn to acknowledge when playing has just become due to habit rather than desire, and maybe step back at that point. If I play a few times a week rather than every day maybe I can keep the enthusiasm up. Makes sense, but y’know, at my age I’m not sure I can learn new tricks.

They don’t look like trolls but believe me, they are.

What really killed FFXIV for me was the Horrible Hundred; the huge swathe of quests that happen after you finish A Realm Reborn and before you start Heavensward. During these (which took me a few weeks to get through) there is almost no multiplayer content. A few raids and dungeons, but mostly you run around doing fetch quests.

Back when these were new people were probably mixing them up with doing dungeons for fun, but with the “Road to 70” buff I was already so over-leveled that I didn’t want the XP that would come with doing anything extra. I just wanted to get to Heavensward so every night I’d log in, feeling vaguely irritated by how much these quests sucked, but determined to get through them.

And I did, finally. And then Heavensward began and it was more of the same. Heavensward, at launch, was meant to take characters from level 50 to level 60. I was level 60 before I started it, meaning now the Heavensward quests are trivial. The ‘correct’ course for me would be to level a 2nd job, and I thought about leveling a healer but now it’s been so long since I’ve done MP content that I’m facing my natural resistance to doing it. I was a social gamer for a while, though!

Plus as soon as I stopped logging into FFXIV I started remembering the 5,000 other games in my backlog, frontlog and sidelog. (OK I exaggerate a little.) I’ve been bouncing around from Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to Dragon Quest Builders 2 and then to Days Gone (among others.).

The best thing about playing an MMO is that you save money on other games, but the worst thing about playing an MMO is that you miss out on so many other games.

My only real regret is that I bought TWO 60-day time cards in order to get two Fat Chocobo mounts for 2 characters and so my sub is paid through to something like October.

The good news for everyone else is that in patch 5.3 (which is out sometime later this year I believe) the developers are going to streamline this early content to make it faster to get through. There are no real details of that, but if you’re considering picking up FFXIV, I’d urge you to wait until 5.3. Right now the grind is really depressing. And despite what some will tell you, the story does NOT make it worth it. (Well obviously that’s my opinion.)

I had a good run, though. Hopefully before too long I’ll be ready to jump back in for a while. I do come out of it with some fond memories….

I don’t know these people but they invited me to their wedding, which was ADORABLE!
I joined a guild and lasted like 6 weeks before my inner introvert drove me to leave.
Of course eventually I gave in and created a Viera.

So that rascal Belghast pinged me on a viral questionnaire that is making the rounds. His purpose seemed to be to poke me to see if my blog software still works, given how long it has been since I posted. It does!

The idea is that I answer 7 questions he sent, then I’m supposed to come up with 7 new questions and send them to 7 other bloggers. I’m not sure I know seven other bloggers that haven’t already been tagged, though, so I’m going to be a spoil-sport and just answer Bel’s questions. Also see question 2. Anyway, here goes nothing:

  • What is your earliest memory?

I grew up in a fishing community. We ate a lot of shellfish and used the shells to “pave” the driveway. The adults would just toss the shells out there and drive over them and it was like poor-man’s gravel, I guess. Anyway, I was maybe 3 years old, walking across this (I guess I had tough feet back then) and I stepped on a shell that had a yellow jacket in it and got stung. All I remember is that I got stung, cried a bunch and got carried inside. My next memory is from years later so this must’ve had quite an impact.

  • What is something that you have lost in your past that you would love to have today?

This one hurts to admit, but it’s my imagination. I used to have a really vivid imagination but it has faded with time. In some ways I blame video games for that. A lot of my ‘imagination time’ was spent on making up some kind of story behind the games and activities I enjoyed. (I was effectively an only child — my brother left home when I was six — and there were no other kids in my neighborhood so I spent a lot of time playing alone.) Then video/computer games came along and they gave me both the activity and the story behind it. Or maybe it is just part of getting older? Anyway when I fire up Minecraft or The Sims (something that lets me create) I just tend to stare vacantly, devoid of ideas. And I could no longer write fiction if my life depended on it. I just don’t get the ideas like I used to.

Answering the same question from a completely different point of view, I’d say the ocean. As I said, I grew up in a fishing community but it was also in the Hamptons and we were in the ocean constantly during warm weather. I really miss that and would love to have it back.

  • What is the last piece of media (book/movie/video/whatever) that really moved you emotionally?

SPOILERS: Has to be Avengers: Endgame, for a couple of reasons (and I should point out that I just watched it last weekend for the first time). I’ve never been a HUGE comic book fan but when I was a kid I’d get Marvel comics mostly for Stan’s Soapbox. Stan Lee was the first adult that felt like he was talking to me, not talking down to me. My father died when I was young, my mom eventually re-married someone I never respected. In a weird way Stan Lee was my prevalent father-figure. When he died I was crushed, and somehow seeing some of the long-time Avengers being phased out kind of reinforced that feeling. So the movie both reminded me that Stan is gone, and removed from the playfield characters I’ve “known” since I was a boy.

  • What was your favorite childhood “character” (comic/movie/literary/etc) and has that changed over the years?

This one is tough. I guess I’d have to say James T Kirk. He was, at the least, the character that I watched over and over again. I mean look, he traveled through the stars, won every fight, got every woman he chased, but he wasn’t just a warrior; he was a diplomat, too. And having Spock as a friend, who I was also drawn to because he was so damned smart, just made him even better.

I dunno that I have a favorite these days. I am now more drawn to worlds and ensembles of characters than to individuals. I love Tolkien’s world, but I can’t point at a single character and say “THAT is my favorite.” I enjoy TV shows, even bad ones, that have a crew of characters who get along, watch each others backs, and have fun together. I think that might be a reflection of being such an introvert. I don’t have friends of my own so I enjoy watching other groups of friends.

  • What are you looking forward to the most in the second half of 2019?

Hmm, I can’t think of a damned thing. Getting closer to the election that has some small chance of turning this ship around. Gaming-wise, nothing has me really fired up. I’m looking forward to new consoles, but that’s next year. I guess I’m really curious about how well Stadia will work.

  • What is your greatest fear and has it changed as you have aged?

Jeez Bel, you don’t pull any punches, eh? My greatest fear is being helpless. Always has been. Like being broke and unable to provide for myself. Or having a lingering illness where I need people to look after me. Really I hate having to ask for help or HAVING to rely on others. (Which is slightly different from having people offering to help me with something just because they actually WANT to help.)

What keeps you engaged in a community over time and where do you feel the most at home?

I’ve yet to find a community that I can stay engaged in, so for the first part of that question, I just don’t know. I feel most at home sitting on the couch alone (well aside from my doggo) playing a single player game. Thankfully Angela gets this and is willing to give me that “alone time” on a pretty regular basis. I’ve tried, over and over, to get involved in online communities, but really most people irritate me unless I keep them at arm’s length, so thus far I’ve always failed to make the online community thing work.

So that’s my questions answered! Hopefully I’ve been a semi-good sport. I just don’t know 7 other people to tag even if I HAD 7 new questions, which I don’t. Every chain has a last link, I guess!

Recently Square Enix was running one of its “come back to Final Fantasy XIV” promotions. If you were a former player you could get a week of sub time just by logging in. As the period for this was winding down I figured “Hey free time, I better use it!” so I did.

I’ve always loved the world of Final Fantasy XIV. The weird creatures, the ridiculously overwrought dialog, the cute female characters [ahem, not sure I should admit that one]. For me it really leans into the “fantasy” part of the title.

I’ve always disliked Final Fantasy XIV because of the forced grouping. In order to unlock things in the game you have to follow the Main Story Quests and these send you to group dungeons fairly often. I simply DO NOT like playing with others, particularly strangers. It makes me super anxious because I’m afraid I’ll do something that negatively impacts other players and I hate looking stupid in front of people. [Yeah don’t think this stems from altruism; we all know me better than that. I just don’t want to embarrass myself.]

Busy starter cities
I was happy to discover that the ‘starter cities’ are still nicely populated

But I started playing and thanks to a “Preferred Server” buff I flew through the levels and the quests and within a day or two I was faced with queuing for dungeons. I summoned my courage, queued up, started sweating it out. When the Duty (as they are called in FFXIV) popped I almost declined it, but I didn’t. And I found that at this point you are essentially carried in low level dungeons. Bosses die so fast (since most of your party will by max level) that you don’t even have to worry about special mechanics.

This, I guess, is the beauty of FFXIV rewarding high level players to replay low level content. And for me it made a huge difference. That first dungeon wasn’t so bad. Just to be safe before I did another I watched some YouTube videos showing the special features/tricks of the next few dungeons, then I pressed on.

All these people are doing a level 15 or so quest. The little filmstrip icon next to their name shows they are in a cut scene

Before this gets stupid long, let me summarize. I learned that low level dungeons are generally stress free. I learned that letting folks know “This is my first time” often actually gets you helpful advice. And I learned that if the party wipes, it’s generally not the DPS dude’s fault (that’s me), it’s just over-exuberance on the part of the tank, and people shrug it off, slow down a little and finish the fight.

Somehow I’ve now gone from dreading these dungeon runs to looking forward to them. Now my gripe is that queue times are too long for a DPS and I’m thinking of starting a tank or healing job. Now I’m often the first guy who says “Hi!” in group chat; I’ve become, dare I say it? Social. I joined a Free Company (guild). I joined a Linkshell (group chat). OK so it is the Novice Network linkshell that is pretty impersonal, but still!

I don’t know what this is, but I didn’t mess with it. It was level 50

I feel like after playing FFXIV for a while, I’ll be able to go into any other MMO and queue up for group content and not sweat it so much. I’m sure at some point I’ll have that experience of someone getting mad and rage-quitting or calling me names because I suck, but already I have a nice body of experience that shows me that is the rare exception and not the norm. Honestly for the most part, people don’t talk at all except maybe a hello at the start and a ‘thanks for the party’ at the end.

That said, I’m still having a blast with FFXIV. I’ve re-subbed and will keep playing for the foreseeable future. Which reminds me, I should probably cancel my SWTOR subscription. 🙁

I’ve been meaning to write this post all week but never did because I kept forgetting to take some good screenshots to support it. I still haven’t but y’all know what Star Wars: The Old Republic looks like anyway, right?

Without really planning to, I’ve been taking a tour of old MMOs for the past month or so. Last week I noticed a few friends have been playing SWTOR, then the trailer for the next movie came out, and I figured “Sure, why not?” I’d only gotten it installed when the Star Wars Celebration Event (that I was unaware of) kicked off and suddenly my Star Wars interest spiked.

My old, old account was protected by a security key which I couldn’t find. It was from back when they put a piece of hardware in the game box (yes, younglings, games used to come in boxes that you bought at a shop) to help you secure your account. Best guess was I’d have to call support to get that account back so I said “Heck with it” and bought a starter kit that came with 60 days of game-time for less than what I would’ve normally paid for 60 days of game-time.

You can play SWTOR for free but my recollection was that there were a lot of limitations and I knew I’d end up subscribing anyway so…

Corso is staring at me again, isn’t he? SO CREEPY!

Anyway, so new character on a new account. I’d forgotten about the Legacy System where all your characters contribute to leveling up and unlocking things or I might’ve made the effort to recover the old account. Eh, water under the bridge now.

Bioware has put out a few expansions since I played and they REALLY want you to play this new content. You can create a character ready for the new content (level 50 or something) but I created a basic level 1 character. I can’t handle jumping into a game and being handed 2 dozen skills all at once.

Still Bioware pushed. There is a permanent 200% experience bonus while you play the vanilla content, and by default side quests aren’t shown on the map. They want you to just play your story missions and the main storyline for the planet you are on. I’m way too OCD for that so I turned on the side quests and jumped in.

She looks fine but her armor needs better textures, no?

Generally speaking the game holds up pretty well. All it would take is a high-definition texture pack to make it look quite good. The kind of stylized design of the characters ages well, but the armor and weapons could really used some more detail. It’s an old enough game that when it detected my graphics card it said “Gosh I have no idea” and set everything to “low” but I toggled everything to max settings and holding 60 FPS is not a problem.

Gameplay-wise, this vanilla content is very easy since you’re leveling so fast. By the time I left Coruscant, the first ‘main’ planet in the storyline, I was level 35. The game auto-scales you down (to 18 on Coruscant) but you’re still a beast. My companion even more so. If I set the companion to heal I almost think it would be impossible to die, but I haven’t tested this. The only enemy I didn’t try to kill on Coruscant was the world boss. Everything else, including heroic missions, was a cake walk. Too easy, really.

Finally got my ship back, now I’m off to the Republic Fleet

They’ve also added a solo mode to flashpoints, the “dungeons” in SWTOR. Originally designed for groups of 4, you can now do them in solo mode with you, your companion, and a provided combat droid. This was very easy too, though it took a long time just because the enemies still have a lot of HP to burn through.

What is really saving me and keeping me in SWTOR is the story and characters. I’ve played through all of this before but it was such a long time ago that it feels fresh. (I’m also playing a female character which changes things a little, based on some of the interactions.) I may also be paying more attention to the story since I’m not looking over my shoulder to see if some NPC is going to kill me, or feeling like I’m falling behind my friends as they level quickly. There’s something to be said for the pure solo-ist lifestyle in a game with this much story/dialog.

My only real concern is that if I stick around long enough and get to where I’ll have to actually fight smart I won’t know how to. I specced my character as a healer (way out of my wheelhouse) because I thought I could practice on my companion as I go along, but I’ve had the opportunity to heal him maybe 3 or 4 times, he’s such a beast.

I’d forgotten there was space combat

But knowing how flighty I’ve been recently, that’s just borrowing trouble. I may never get that far. For right now I’m enjoying plowing through this content, meeting nice (NPC) folks and bashing the villains. I have my ship, a nice apartment, a couple of companions, and a shiny blaster. What more could a Scoundrel like me want?

TL;DR version: I changed my identity to Nimgimli on a bunch of services so if we’re friends and you see that pop-up, it’s just me. Now here’s the LOOONG version:

Finding a ‘handle’ to use online can be tough. You wouldn’t think I’d be struggling with this given I’ve been online for something like 40 years at this point, but here I am.

Way way back on GEnie and Compuserve I had 2 handles: CaptCook and JadedGamer. The first was because at the time I was a cook and I admired the historical figure Capt. James Cook. The second was because I fancied myself a game critic and thought it made me sound edgy and authentic (hey, I was young).

Of the two, JadedGamer stuck. When the Internet started taking off as a mainstream thing I had a site called The Jaded Gamers Pub which I ran for years under the name Jaded and for a long while that was how I was known. When Xbox Live came online 16 or 17 years ago I grabbed that gamertag for continuity.

By the time the Playstation Network came online, this blog existed. I tried to get Jaded as my PSN name but it was taken, so I used Dragonchasers instead. The Dragonchasers name is intended to reflect both the literal in terms of the kinds of games I most played (fantasy RPGs where often a dragon was an ultimate baddie) and an homage to one of my favorite movies, Knightriders

Knightriders was about a group of people trying to re-live/re-invent Camelot in modern times. They were a traveling band that put on a jousting show, only instead of horses they rode motorcycles. It starred a young Ed Harris as Billy, their would-be Arthur and the person who most believed in the dream. In the movie at one point an exasperated Billy describes his quest as “chasing the dragon” which I adopted as an expression that meant searching for a nearly insurmountable challenge or dream and trying to attain it. [Of course these days Chasing the Dragon is a heroin term.]

Years went by and my “Jaded” tag on Xbox Live started to chafe. The gaming community changed and EVERYONE was jaded/cynical and I stopped seeing being jaded as a positive thing. At the same time I was constantly being hassled by people who wanted to buy the gamertag from me. One day I got a very polite request from someone and decided “Ah screw it, I’ll just give it up.” I switched it to “Traellan” which is the name of a character I had in Dark Age Of Camelot.

There’s no special meaning behind Traellan other than I liked the sound of it and it is easy to shorten to “Trae.” I got it wherever I could and tried to homogenize around it, with mixed results. Yesterday Sony finally started letting us change our PSN names so I charged off to get “Traellan” there too, but it was taken. Damn it!

So in a fit of pique I decided to change everything again. Now I’ve gone with Nimgimli which is, in my mind, based on a goblin character from an old fighting game. I had to turn to my old pal Irata to remember the name of it. The game was called Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft and the character I remember as Nimgimli was actually “Nym Pymplee the mad goblin” which is a less appealing name. But if you watch this clip, to me it still sounds like Nimgimli:

The good news was “Nimgimli” was available pretty much everywhere. I now have it on Steam, Xbox Live, Playstation Network, Twitter, Twitch, and Origin. So far. I like it because it’s a little silly, easy to shorten to Nim, and isn’t loaded with any kind of meaning. It’s just a name. So if you see a mad goblin show up in your game or timeline, it’s probably me.

So all this talking about me has me curious about you. Where’d your handle come from? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

A couple of weeks back Bethesda gave away Morrowind to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of The Elder Scrolls. Of course I snagged a copy, but then I did something crazy. I tried to play it. One point of gamer-shame I carry around with me is that I’ve never played a significant way into any of the Elder Scrolls games (other than Elder Scrolls Online). I’ve bought them all, but generally drift away after 5-10 hours which is like reading the preface of a book then tossing it aside.

Morrowind, in 2019, was a struggle. It looks dated, the UI is clunky and the game is HARD. But hey, I’m on PC now, there are MODS. So I started looking into mods for the game and, well I won’t go into details but there’s a lot to take in and at some point I got tired of researching and decided “Y’know what, maybe we should turn to one of the newer Elder Scrolls games.”

So I bought Skyrim Special Edition, which is I think the 5th time I’ve purchased Skyrim (bought at launch, bought it on Steam at some point, bought the Special Edition on both PS4 and Xbox One, and now SE on Steam). But now I had mods in my craw so I wanted to mod Skyrim too.

That actually went a lot better since Skyrim was designed to be modded. There’s still a certain amount of fiddling you have to do, mostly in terms of load order and what mods co-exist happily and what should over-write what. In the end I followed a guide on YouTube. You don’t have to watch the video, just look at the mod list in the summary. That’s where we’ve landed, people essentially blogging in the description field at YouTube.

It’s looking pretty good, though every so often I get a surprise, like Aela the Huntress showing up in bondage gear thanks to one of the armor mods (though I’m not sure which one).

But at this point I’ve been playing WITH Skyrim more than playing it, and Morrowind was still floating around in the back of my head. AND Lola was demanding that I spend more time on the couch so she could rest her furry little head against me and snore.

So I snagged the Xbox (like, original Xbox) version of Morrowind for $15. Thanks to backward compatibility it runs on the Xbox One X and some mad scientist at Microsoft or Bethesda has tweaked it to run at 4K, even. I mean it is still super-dated but it’s better than “vanilla.” The UI is still clunky and the game is still hard. I ‘cheated’ on that last bit by reading and following a guide for the first couple hours of the game. That cut down the initial frustration a lot. Mostly the character creation bits. On my first try (on PC), rats were destroying me. Following this guide I can take down everything in the starting area without too much effort.

Funny thing is, I glommed onto Morrowind on the Xbox harder than I did the modded Skyrim on PC. I think it’s just so retro that it feels like something different, if that makes sense. These games take (I think) 100 bajillion hours to finish, so I’m not fooling myself that I’ll play through either of them, but I’m getting something out of them that I didn’t when I was younger. I think I just have more patience now. I read all the books I find, talk to everyone and just in general go slower and kind of take it all in more than I did back in the day when I couldn’t wait to get out there and kill something. In a way they’re scratching that MMO itch, in that what I generally love about MMOs is having a HUGE world to explore. (The other players in MMOs aren’t a huge draw for me because I’m weird.)

I dunno how long this nostalgia kick will go on. First old MMOs, now old single player games. I think I’m just enjoying them because these games are too old to have much drama surrounding them. Plus, to paraphrase @dog_rates, “They’re good games, Brent.”

Between all the vitriol seething around stupid (IMO, obviously) issues with modern games, and just the fact that I’ve been away from PC gaming for a long time, I’ve been revisiting some old favorites lately. It’s good timing since it seems like plenty of folks are on a nostalgia kick when it comes to games, and MMOs in particular.

In the last months I’ve at least dipped my toe into WoW, LOTRO, Guild Wars 2, Age of Conan, Star Trek Online, Secret World Legends, Neverwinter, DC Universe Online, EVE Online, Anarchy Online and Everquest 2. Mind you in some cases it was a single login (looking at you, Age of Conan and Anarchy Online).

In a couple of cases (LOTRO and EQ2) I’ve decided to roll on the progression servers (or as LOTRO calls them, Legendary Servers). My thinking was “Hey, it’s a nostalgia trip, might as well go all-in.” Further thinking was that the games ought to be simpler to get back into on these older builds that don’t have years of expansions layered onto the foundations.

Well it turns out that while it was simpler to get back into the games in this way, these servers are not for me. In my heart they are, but in my real world having slower than normal progression doesn’t pair well with my “OK I think I can sneak in an hour of gaming tonight” lifestyle. I just don’t get anywhere.

This might not be a big deal if not for the fact that I never hit cap on these games back when I played them live. I’m a notorious game grazer, so getting through half the content, then coming back years later and starting all over rather than picking up where I left off and seeing new content…it just doesn’t make that much sense for me.

All that said, though, these servers ARE a great way to re-acclimate myself. In both LOTRO and EQ2 I started a new character on the special server and played for a couple of hours. I felt dusty old neural pathways flicker back into life as I remembered the various systems (I’d totally forgotten about the existence of Fellowship Maneuvers and Heroic Opportunities). But once I was feeling comfortable again, I abandoned these half-formed virtual lives to go pick up some old character from years ago, armed with a least some familiarity with the game again.

Ironic, really. I spent a bunch of money for a PC that can handle all the modern games on high graphics settings, and now I’m playing games that I could’ve played on one of the old PCs that it collecting dust in the closet!

Still, I’m having fun and that’s what matters.